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Be like Nike: How Nike is winning millennials

November 3 2015

Tim Smith

As millennials have become America’s largest consumer group, everything about marketing has changed. The only thing that has remained constant is the success of Nike. Year after year, Nike ranks as a favorite brand among millennials.1

Like its customers, Nike’s marketing strategy has evolved.

If you’re a marketer clinging to the principles of yesterday, you may be a dead brand to millennials. These 18- to 34-year-olds account for more than $500 billion in indirect purchasing power, and they haven’t even reached their peak. The way they want to interact with brands has required brands to rethink the way they deliver their messages. And it’s reshaping the marketing landscape for the better.

In this new world, successful brands are becoming more transparent. They’re becoming socially responsible, authentic, and honest in their communications. They are relying less on exaggerated claims, misleading and confusing offers, and empty promises. Nike has adapted to these changes and seen significant economic impact – a result every marketer can realize by following Nike’s lead.

Stay true to yourself, and let go of control

Nike is consistently ranked as a top performing brand among millenials, and the reason is simple: Nike starts with an honest and authentic set of core values and strives to communicate those in an open conversation across a broad range of media. While they certainly have the ability to out-spend the competition, they win by understanding that advertising dollars aren’t the way to win.

Nike decided that it was most important to be true to themselves – and their audience. They put traditional marketing tactics on the backburner and decided that sustainability was a definitive focus of their entire organization. As a result, they made changes in their operation and attitude. They then shared that vision, and asked for feedback and suggestions on how to improve on this stance with their millennial audience.

Nike sought to influence, not control.

They allowed the conversation to evolve and flow. This behavior allows Nike’s millennial consumers the ability to project their shared value through a brand they feel good about affiliating with and then sharing that brand love. They established honest values and listened to customers and gained credibility in the process. By the way, this brand is outperforming every single brand on the stock exchange and registering mind-blowing profits.

How to be like Nike

Embrace these principles: stay true to yourself and let go of control. Rethink the concept of marketing messages being crafted to control buying behavior, and consider the value of conversation. You’ll feel better about your brand and so will your customers. (Especially the 83 million of them born between 1981 and 1997!)